On Hiatus …

I shall be off the air for about 3 weeks.  Later today, my long-suffering wife and I leave for two weeks of traveling around Switzerland by a series of train rides.  After that, we will fly to Ireland for a week to visit The FOG – – The First and Only Grandson – – and his parents too.

If all goes according to plan, we will be home late in the afternoon of June 17th.  Depending on the impact of jet-lag and the attending chores of returning home, I hope to be back on June 18th – – but it might not be until June 19th.

Please check back then.

Stay well, all…


The Jockocracy In 2019

I really try not to do what have come to be known as “listicles” – – “articles” that are put on the Internet as lists of things labeled as “The Ten Best Things of This Kind” or “The Worst Sports Decisions Known to Man”.  The reasons I try to avoid them as much as possible are that everyone and his/her maternal grand-aunt does them and because most of them are nothing more than contrived clickbait.  Having said that, I am now about to do a “listicle” because it came to my mind that I could make some potentially relevant comments relative to the list.  This came to my mind as a result of Jason Witten resigning his positon with ESPN and returning to  the Dallas Cowboys and subsequently reporting to one of the team’s OTAs where he received universally positive reviews for his drills as a tight end.

The fact of the matter is that I was very VERY wrong about Jason Witten as a color analyst on MNF.  Early on, I thought that he had insight to reveal to the audience and that he would ooze his way into a broadcasting style that would allow for him to transmit that insight.  Granted, one year of time in the MNF booth is not a huge sample size; nonetheless, Jason Witten was not significantly better at the end of the 2018 season than he was on Day One.  My conclusion at the end of that 1-year tour of duty is that Jason Witten is not cut out to be a TV color analyst.

Upon reflection, he got the job offer because he was a logical invitee into the fraternity of retired football players who enter the broadcasting booth because of their fame/recognition on the field.  Howard Cosell railed against this fraternity as long as 45 years ago; Cosell called it the “Jockocracy”; we the audience were subjected to the verbal stylings of former jocks without regard to their ability to communicate whatever knowledge they may have had.  And so, I began to think about the current former jocks who inhabit positions behind microphones in various sports.  [Not to worry; I am not about to regale you with how good Dandy Don Meredith or Tom Brookshier used to be or how Dan Dierdorf paired well with Al Michaels.]  This is not an exhaustive list; these are the ones that have come to mind over a period of about 24 hours – – and this is what I think of them.

Let me break the list down by sport – and let me do football first:

  • Troy Aikman – He works with Joe Buck and the two of them are greater than the sum of their parts.  I think Aikman might have a short shelf life if he had to change broadcast partners.  As things stand with FOX, Aikman is more than adequate as a color analyst.
  • Cris Colinsworth – – He and Tony Romo are today’s gold standard for TV color analysts.  And no; he does not hate your favorite team whichever team that may be.  When he criticizes them, they almost always deserve it – – and more.
  • Dan Fouts – He was a HoF level QB and he turned himself into a solid color analyst over time with hard work.
  • Trent Green – I like his work, but last year, he was paired with Bruce Arians and a play-by-play guy that I do not remember.  Problem was that I found Arians to be annoying to the max.  Neither Green – nor any other analyst will have to put up with the burden of having Arians in their booth this year since Arians is back into coaching in the NFL.
  • Tony Romo – He took to the broadcasting booth as fast as a kid learns to play the card game, War.  He and Jim Nantz have only been working together for a couple of years, but their interactions and banter makes it seem as if they have been partners forever.  It was probably Romo’s “instant success” that led to the idea of throwing Jason Witten into the deep end of the pool on MNF so quickly.
  • Mark Schlereth – If FOX gives him exposure, I think he can capture audience attention.  Problem is that he has been relegated to low-exposure games most of the time.

I neither like nor dislike Ronde Barber and Chris Spielmann in the booth.  When they are on, I do not sit up and take notice of their comments nor do I reach for the mute button.

Moving along to baseball:

  • Ron Darling – He must be an acquired taste.  Several friends think he is the “best in the business” and they love his candor.  I think he is OK – – and nothing more.  To each his own…
  • John Kruk – I like him because I never know what he might say/do next – – and that is entertaining even if the game he is doing is 11-1 after 7 innings.
  • Alex Rodriguez – He knows the game and he is articulate.  He is also hugely unlikable AND he will take a small thing and beat it to death over the course of a game.  There is talent there if he can develop it and/or if broadcasting mentors can get him to change.
  • Frank Thomas – When he points out something a player is doing well – or poorly – at the plate, you should pay attention.  The man was a great hitter and he understands what hitting is about.  Usually, whatever observation he might make about a hitter is reinforced by visual evidence later in the game.
  • Bob Uecker – Yes, he does play-by-play more than analysis, but here’s the deal.  If you can listen to an entire Brewers game done by Uecker without enjoying the experience, you are an irretrievable grouch.

And now for the basketball analysts…

  • Charles Barkley – I love Sir Charles; I think he is funny, and I like the way he is perfectly willing to put himself out there on the island of his own opinion.  Since he always picks against the Golden State Warriors, I can understand why fans in the Bay Area may not have the same opinion that I have.  Your mileage may vary …
  • Jay Bilas – A former colleague hates Bilas because he thinks Bilas “talks down to me” and because Bilas “always thinks he’s the smartest guy in the building”.  Since I believe that both of those statements are possibly true, that is why I like Jay Bilas.
  • Reggie Miller – If you can laugh at his malaprops – – like the time he compared LeBron James to a fullback with a full steam of head – – he is interesting to listen to.
  • Jalen Rose – Once I got used to his voice, I grew to like him more and more.  He is insightful and he is very direct in his analytical comments about what is happening on the floor.  He is even better in a studio setting.
  • Bill Walton – He is the worst; I would rather gargle with razor blades than listen to him do an entire basketball game.  He is the reason that God invented the mute button…
  • Chris Webber – I think he is awful; I have several friends who think he is brilliant.  You can take him for whatever you think he is so long as you do not demand that I listen to him for any protracted period of time.

I am sure I have left out some analysts that you enjoy hearing.  There was little to no “research” done to compile these 3 lists; these are people who came to mind as I was setting out to fill out the lists and these are my reactions alone.

Finally, let me close with this observation from the Twitter account of Brad Dickson:

“The U.S. Postal Service is experimenting with self-driving mail trucks. What could go wrong? The challenge is programming the trucks to deliver the mail 3 days later to the wrong address.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



RIP Bart Starr

Bart Starr died over the weekend; he was 85 years old.  Starr was low-key QB of “Lombardi’s Packers” in the 50s and 60s; that was not a time when QBs put up gaudy stats, but Starr managed to get the Packers into 10 playoff games winning 9 of them.

Rest in peace, Bart Starr.

Organizations like to do a “late Friday news dump” when they have to reveal some sort of bad news or something that might be very controversial.  The idea is that many people will be focused on their weekend plans that the news will not get as much notice as it might if done during the week.  Last Friday was a really good time for one of those “news dumps” given that this is the Memorial Day Weekend where almost everyone had weekend plans.  So, a high school in Texas seemingly took advantage of that and made this “potentially controversial” announcement last Friday evening:

  • Mount Vernon High School hired Art Briles to be its head football coach.

To be sure, Briles has been successful on the sidelines all during his career – – but there was more than “a bit of a problem” during his time at Baylor.  Personally, I am surprised that he is coaching anywhere other than in pro football after his exit from Baylor.  Rather than go through all the problems there and his prospects in his new job, let me provide a link to this piece by Pete Thamel at Yahoo! Sports.  Lest you think there will be any ambiguity on the part of the author here, this is the headline:

In hiring Art Briles, a small Texas town sells its soul

In a recent column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, Bob Molinaro had this to say:

“Wondering: Have we seen anything from the Bucks or Raptors that makes us think either could beat the Warriors? We haven’t. This is a problem for the NBA and its TV partners.”

I agree this is a problem for the NBA – albeit not a severe one.  In terms of predictability being a problem for a sport and its “TV partners”, I think we should turn our attention to MLB at the moment.  The season is not quite one-third finished and unless you think that the Cleveland Indians are going to snap to life from their current state of somnambulance, the playoff structure in the AL is set.  No one is catching the Astros in the AL West; the Twins have a 10-game lead in the AL Central and the highest run differential in MLB, the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays are dominating the AL East.  Those folks are playing for home field advantage and to avoid the “dreaded wild-card play-in game”.

Over in the NL, there is still some intrigue – – if you remember to avoid looking at the NL West where the Dodgers might have to invent something totally new in order to lose the division title.  So, in MLB, there are only two divisions where the races are not rather well known so early in the year.

The Toronto Blue Jays are apparently strong believers in the science of genetics.  Earlier this season they called up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (scion of a Hall of Fame player) from their minor league system.  Last week, they dipped into their minor league pool of talent and called up Cavan Biggio – son of Hall of Fame second-baseman, Craig Biggio.  A historian should check to see if the Jays’ GM, Ross Atkins, is related to Gregor Mendel.

The folks who put together The Onion are spectacular when it comes to cutting through a lot of haze and exposing the heart of a matter.  Consider this headline from about a week ago:

  • Adam Gase to play all 22 positions after pushing out entire Jets team.

Back in March, Landry Jones signed on with the Raiders as a free agent.  After spending 5 years with the Steelers as a back-up QB to Ben Roethlisberger, it was clear that he was heading west to continue in that role behind Derek Carr.  As a back-up QB on a good team, Jones did what you might expect a back-up QB to do.  The Steelers called on him to start a total of 5 games and the team record in those games was 3-2.  He “held the fort.”  This seemed like a sensible move on the part of the Raiders building some depth behind Derek Carr.

All of that thinking went out the window last week when the Raiders released Landry Jones to make room for a tight end that they added to their roster.  There is something else about this low-level roster move that puzzles me.  Here are the 2 QBs on the Raiders’ roster who stand behind Derek Carr now that Jones is once again a free agent:

  • Mike Glennon – Granted he has never been with a team as talented as the Steelers, but he has started 22 games and the team record in those games is 6-16.
  • Nathan Peterman – He has started 4 games in his career; the team record in those games is 1-3.  He has thrown 3 TDs and 12 INTs in his career.  His average passing yards per game in those 4 starts is 68.5.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times seems to have connected the dots with this observation:

“Americans are bored 131 days a year, according to a survey conducted by OnePoll researchers.

“Which, as fate would have it, is exactly the number of days from this year’s NFL Draft to the season opener.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Not So Quiet Anymore…

Things seemed to be quieting down on the “western front” – – not the western front in World War I, I mean the western front in terms of horse racing controversy in the US.  Recall that Santa Anita (in Arcadia, CA) had seen a couple dozen racing and training injuries earlier this year that were sufficiently severe that the horses had to be euthanized.  They shut down the track for a month or so; they had a variety of specialists/experts study and analyze the track; they instituted new rules about medications.  Seemingly, that put things on a more normal footing, until just recently.

Now, Santa Anita has had two more injuries that resulted in euthanasia in the past week or so – one during training and another in a race.  There had been about 6 weeks of accident-free racing and training but now the spotlight is again focused on Santa Anita.  The grim statistics there are:

  • Since Christmas of 2018, there have been 25 horses injured at Santa Anita to the extent that the animals had to be put down.

If there were nothing else going on, that datum could easily scare trainers and owners of thoroughbreds to the point that they would take their assets and deploy them elsewhere.  If that was the “extent of the damage”, one could live with the bewilderment as to how all of that came to pass and move on to look at horse racing in different venues.  But that is not all that is going on and the stakes for what is going on are much higher than the quality of racing at Santa Anita or the continued existence of Santa Anita as a horse racing facility.

Bryant Gumbel did a segment on Santa Anita – and horse racing more generally – on his HBO program, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.  In the segment, reporter Bernard Goldberg said that these equine injuries/deaths are only “the tip of an iceberg the public knows nothing about”.  When the “issue” is framed that way, the problem is much larger.

Obviously, some defenders of horse racing and/or racing enthusiasts consider the HBO piece akin to a drive-by shooting.  I don’t want to get in the middle of their beef with HBO on this because – like both sides of that argument – I do not know enough about all the dimensions of this situation to form a solidly based opinion.  However, I do think I understand enough to make a couple of reasonable observations here:

  1. Owners and trainers use a wide variety of medications on horses racing in the US.  Some states have “tight rules” that are “closely monitored”; some other states have more lax rules with a much looser set of regulatory procedures.  That leads some to say that racing needs a “National Czar”.  If I believed that concept had an even 50/50 chance to resolve the problem, I’d be all for it.  Problem is that I think a “National Czar” would be more window-dressing than problem-solver.
  2. At the same time, I do believe that meds and drugs are part of “the problem”.  In many other countries, horses must be off all such substances for a sufficient time that on racing day, there are no traces of any such stuff in their blood – – and they test all the racers.  Meds and drugs allow a horse to run when it has “soreness” or a “minor injury”; it is comparable to weekend athlete taking an ibuprofen tablet before going out to play touch football.  But the fact is that meds set up horses to train and work while they have minor injuries and that means they do not let those minor injuries heal.
  3. I am confident that the next item I will describe will do nothing to resolve this problem.  The California State Legislature has begun to hold hearings on an “Overview of Equine and Human Safety and Welfare Policies and Procedures Within California’s Horse Racing Industry”.  The legislators seek to find the answer(s) as to what has caused this spate of equine deaths at Santa Anita and to prevent it from happening in the future.  C’mon now…  There is legislation pending that would allow the California Horse Racing Board – the “State Czar” of racing if you will – to close down any track based on its safety/welfare concerns.  [Aside:  No possible chance for shenanigans there…]

I said this before, and I continue to believe that these unexplained and misunderstood deaths at Santa Anita threaten the viability of horse racing as a sport and that racing as a sport is not in the best of health absent this sort of negative news.  I think there is progress to be made understanding and more tightly regulating the use of meds and drugs to the point where – perhaps – people who run afoul of those regulations are banned from the sport permanently.  Even there, I recognize that a lot of work and study needs to be done.

Moreover, I am convinced that any panel of legislators – from town councils to the “Greatest Deliberative Body on Earth” – will not resolve the issues here.  The best anyone can hope for there is a lot of grandstanding and arm-waving by people who would not recognize the source of these problems if the source stood up and announced its presence in monosyllabic simple declarative sentences.

Moving on, the NFL and some of its players are about to offer us a new competition.  40 Yards of Gold will feature 40-yard dashes between NFL players and former NFL players.  40 Yards of Gold bills itself as:

“… the Authority on Speed in the sport of football from Pop Warner to the NFL.”

Some of the NFL entrants are top-shelf players such as Alvin Kamara, Tarik Cohen and Mark Ingram.  The idea is to have 8 offensive players and 8 defensive players arranged in two seeded brackets.  By elimination there will be an “offensive champ” and a “defensive champ” and then there will be a final sprint to determine the “40-Champion”.  Two things come to mind here:

  1. Sounds like fun.
  2. Sounds like pulled/torn hamstrings about to happen.

[Aside:  No danger that injured human sprinters here will be euthanized…]

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“An Arizona woman was jailed after sending 159,000 texts to a man after just one date.

“Thus breaking the record previously set by overzealous Alabama fans to a five-star recruit.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Strange Happenings…

Let me be clear here; I know that I am certainly not the most sensitive and caring person on the planet.  I plead guilty to having stereotypical images that overlay various individuals and groups of individuals; I even laugh out loud at ethnic humor – when the joke is funny.  But even I in my most incorrigible moments recognize that this next item is more than just a little “over the line”.

The NY Post reported that women squash players at a tournament in Spain were given vibrators and a waxing set as “gifts” – – among other things to be sure.  As you might imagine these women were not happy about this and made their feelings known.  The tournament organizers said that they were sorry that the players felt “aggrieved by the prizes” and then tried to apologize for the situation.  Any attempt at an apology was probably doomed as soon as this statement appeared as part of the apology:

  • “At no moment was it done from a sexist standpoint.”

This incident is more than jaw-dropping; this report deserves a full double face-palm.  And just so you do not think that this is some kind of belated April Fool’s prank on my part, here is the link to the report in the NY Post.

Oh, but there is more bizarre sports “stuff” out there today.  A school has been kicked out of its conference because its football program is – – wait for it – – too good for the rest of the schools in that conference.  No, I am not referring to Clemson or Alabama or Ohio State; I am not referring to Linfield College who has not had a losing season in football since 1956 in the Northwest Conference (Division III).  No, this action comes from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (Division III) and the penalty falls on the University of St. Thomas.  The “Tommies” will be “involuntarily removed” from the MIAC at the end of the 2020/21 athletic scheduling year.

  • [Aside:  Doesn’t it sound ever so much kinder and gentler to be “involuntarily removed” from a conference than it does to be “kicked out”?]

Naturally, when I read about this conference action, I had to go and look to see just how much better than the rest of the league St. Thomas has been.  Indeed, they have been putting a hurt on the rest of the conference teams.  Just a couple of stats for you here:

  • In conference games in 2017, St. Thomas outscored its opponents by a combined score of 458-62.
  • In the 2015 season, St Thomas outscored its conference opponents by a combined score of 451-67.
  • In November 2017, St. Thomas ran up the score over one of its conference competitors, St Olaf, and won the game 97-0.

It turns out that football is not the only sport where St. Thomas is dominant.  The conference has an annual trophy awarded to the school with the best overall record in all sports for each gender.  St. Thomas had won both the men’s trophy and the women’s trophy every year from 2008 through 2017.

There are 13 schools in the MIAC today; the MIAC was founded in 1920 with 7 original members; St. Thomas was one of those 7 schools in the original incarnation of the MIAC.  The characterization of St Thomas being involuntarily removed from the MIAC was not the only grandiloquence in the announcement.  The conference mavens felt it necessary to point out that the Tommies were:

“… [one of the] seven founding members of the MIAC and will leave the conference in good standing with a long and appreciated history of academic and athletic success.”

Let me translate that for you:

  • St. Thomas has been in the conference for 100 years and they have dominated the athletic competitions in the conference for much of that time.  The rest of the schools got tired of getting their asses kicked and decided to send St. Thomas packing – – but with best wishes and with appreciation of their prior success.  Oh, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Obviously, it costs money for schools to run an athletic program – no matter if you are talking about a Division 1-A football program or a middle school basketball team.  In those situations where there is marginal revenue generated by the program, there is a need to impose cost controls to stem the flow of red ink.  Watauga High School in Boone NC seems to have come up with an interesting approach to cost controls for their basketball programs.

Laura Berry has been successful in coaching the girls’ basketball team to consecutive playoff appearances and a conference championship in 2018.  The school needed a coach for the boys’ team and decided to hire Ms. Berry to take on both coaching positions simultaneously.  In case you are wondering how she is going to be able to do that, it turns out that the boys’ team and the girls’ team play all their games at the same venue for the season.  That saves the school district the cost of buying one of those “Beam-Me-Up-Scotty-Machines” made famous on Star Trek to get her from one game to the next efficiently.

Here is a link to a report in the Watauga Democrat with all the details on this hiring decision by the school district.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News that demonstrates yet another way to kill two birds with one stone:

“Having drawn the top pick in the NBA draft, the New Orleans Pelicans are expected to select Duke’s Zion Williamson.

“But that’s just when the dealing should begin. If they’re smart, the Pelicans will trade Williamson to Utah in exchange for their long-lost nickname.

“How perfect would that be?

“Utah would be home to Zion, and New Orleans would have back the Jazz.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Sports And Business Intersect Here

If all I told you was that a local company has entered into an agreement with the local high school to pay $750K for naming rights to the school’s athletic field, you would probably think this was a high school football venue in Texas or maybe this was the high school from which emerged the fabulously wealthy CEO of a business.  In either instance, you would be wrong.

  • The location is not Texas – or even the US.  The location is Leamington, Ontario, Canada and the high school field will be a multi-purpose facility.  Leamington is a small town (population about 27,500 in 2016) located in the southwest part of Ontario on Lake Erie; physically, it is closer to Detroit than it is to any of Canada’s major cities.
  • The benefactor is Nature Fresh Farm a company that provides greenhouse grown non-GMO produce on a year-round basis.

This high school is relatively new and the athletic facilities have been evolving for the last decade or so; there was a student/community fund-raising effort called “Finish the Field” that had raised a bit more than $100K – but even so the “finished field” was going to be a grassy area for football and/or soccer with a few bleachers for spectators.  That is when Nature Fresh Farm honored its ledge to support the school and its quest for a sports facility and kicked in the $750K for the “naming rights”.  Now the vision for the facility has expanded to include a track around the fields with an all-weather surface.

Take the story above and file it under “sports/business stories without a lot of smarminess”.  There just aren’t a lot of them running around out there these days.   And as evidence for that assertion please consider this report related to sports and business.

The topic here is college football in the US – and so you can immediately set your smarmy meter to the highest range setting available.  You might be tempted to dial it back just a bit when I tell you that the story does not involve one of the “football factories” or one of the “power schools” – – but do not be too hasty.

The school in question here is Miami (Ohio).  The school is often referred to as the “cradle of coaches” for having produced people like – inter alia:

  • Paul Brown
  • Paul Dietzel
  • Weeb Ewbank
  • Sid Gilman
  • John Harbaugh (father of the current “Harbaugh brothers” in the coaching business)
  • Woody Hayes
  • Sean McVay
  • Ara Parseghian
  • Bo Schembechler
  • Jim Tressel

Now, they seem to be involved in activities that could label them as the cradle of creative accounting.  According to the school newspaper – – The Miami Student – – the school athletic department purchases about 10,000 tickets for each football game so that the school can meet the NCAA minimum attendance requirements for the school to remain in Division 1-A.  And where does the athletic department get the money to buy these tickets that are never used but count as “paid attendance” so that Miami can keep its Division 1-A status in the MAC?  Why they get it from the student fees charged by the university over and above tuition.  Cue the Church Lady from SNL:

  • Isn’t that special?

Miami (Ohio) along with just about every MAC school has trouble getting people into the stadium, but college football attendance is a problem even at the highest level of the sport.  Recall last season that Nick Saban chastised the Alabama student body for leaving games at the end of the 3rd quarter when Alabama had the game in hand.  Saban’s concept then was that the team worked hard all year to be able to dominate those games and that the student support through to the end was the student acknowledgement of the team’s accomplishment.  [For the record, I think Nick Saban is out in left field on this one – if you will allow me the use of that mixed metaphor here.]

I think all these attendance problems for college football – from the really good programs down through the truly mediocre ones – stem from two major sources;

  1. Twenty-five years ago, there was no comparison between the “game-at-home experience” and the “stadium experience”.  Seeing the game in person was the way to go each and every time you had a shot at tickets for the game.  Today the “game-at-home” experience is a light-year better than it was 25 years ago and, in many ways, it is better than the “stadium experience”.  When you watch – or merely tun in briefly – on a Wednesday night in November and see a MAC game in progress you will notice that there are few folks in the stands and that the ones who are there universally look uncomfortable.  That is the Miami (OH) problem – bad conditions on a weeknight in games that really don’t mean a whole lot.
  2. The ability to see top teams play one another more than once ever couple of years in that excellent “game-at-home” environment has made the college football fan more discriminating in the way he spends his time.  After an Alabama fan watches the Tide take on LSU and Georgia and Florida and Auburn – live or on TV – he might not be nearly as excited to stay to the bitter end to watch Alabama toy with the likes of New Mexico State or Western Carolina (two of this year’s sacrificial lambs).

Television has brought more than merely prosperity to college football programs; it has brought the ability for fans to be more discriminating in what they will watch and what they will not watch.  So, maybe instead of buying up phantom tickets to games and pretending that many people showed up for the game (as Miami (OH) has done) or instead of trying to come up with ways to reward students for staying to the bitter end of blowout home games (as Alabama is going to try to do starting this year), maybe some out-of-the-box thinking is in order here:

  • Maybe Miami (OH) and the rest of the MAC schools should consider playing games on Saturday afternoons and not on Wednesday nights?  It is warmer in the afternoon than it is at night – – particularly in MAC country once Halloween comes and goes.
  • Maybe Alabama might consider scheduling fewer cupcake opponents.  Next year they will play Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Mississippi and Western Carolina as their 4 out-of-conference games.  Yes, I know that the conference schedule for any team in the SEC West is a tough one; but look at those four cupcake opponents and ask yourself if you would want to sit through an entire game watching them get trucked by Alabama.

Finally, business considerations plague sports programs/teams and the sports media too.  Here is an observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times on that topic:

“Golf Digest is struggling to come up with advertisers.

“New in-house marketing slogan:  ‘Get out of the hole’.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



The Warriors Are Still On A Roll…

The Golden State Warriors advanced to the NBA Finals last night sweeping the Blazers and earning the team a bit of rest before facing either Milwaukee or Toronto out of the Eastern Conference.  This makes 5 consecutive Finals for the Warriors and the last time the NBA had that happen was back in the 60s when the Celtics were playing with the likes of Bill Russell, Tommy Heinsohn and Bob Cousy.  Teammates, Steph Curry and Draymond Green both posted Triple Doubles in the game and that is the first time in NBA history that ever happened in a playoff game.  Draymond Green had an outstanding game doing just about everything one could want from a player.  Stats do not always tell the story, but these stats will give you a pretty good idea of the impact Green had on the game:

  • 18 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists – – PLUS – –
  • 2 blocked shots and 3 steals.

The Bucks and Raptors will continue their playoff series tonight in Toronto with the Bucks leading 2 games to 1.  The oddsmakers opened this game with the Bucks as a 1-point favorite but that spread has expanded to 2.5 points most everywhere and to 3 points at one of the Internet sportsbooks.

I understand that hyperbole and self-congratulation are staples in the announcements that accompany sports and network deals.  Those deals are always superb and heavenly and the like; so, I was not shocked to see that the WNBA TV deal with CBS Sports Network TV was hailed as one of the great achievements of Western Civilization.  From the CBS side of the table we learned from Sean McManus:

“This partnership is one of the biggest and most impactful women’s sports programming arrangements ever at CBS Sports, offering national exposure of 40 games per year.  This agreement provides great live content throughout the summer in primetime and on weekends, and aligns two great brands in the WNBA and CBS Sports. We look forward to working with the WNBA for many years to come.”

That is pretty standard fare for events of this kind and so we now turn to Adam Silver – the NBA Commissioner – who still fronts for the WNBA 23 years after it came into existence:

“Through our partnership with CBS Sports Network, the WNBA is joining an elite lineup of premium sports programming.  We thank CBS Sports for making such a meaningful commitment to women’s basketball and for providing another platform to showcase the world-class athletes of the WNBA.”

“An elite lineup of premium sports programming?” Seriously?  CBS Sports Network simulcasts sports-talk radio programs for much of the day but here is the elite lineup of sports they will present to you for the next several days – until the first WNBA telecast – during prime time:

  • College Bowling
  • PWBA Bowling
  • British Touring Car Championship
  • Blancpain GT World Challenge (White Bread?  Is this a cooking show?)
  • Supercars Championship
  • PBR Bull Riding
  • Pickleball
  • Collegiate Bass Fishing (Do they give athletic scholarships for fishing?)
  • Major League Rugby
  • WNBA game (Sky versus Lynx)
  • Lion Fight 55 (It’s some sort of MMA event)

That is the family of elite/premium sports programming the WNBA has joined.  If that is elite, I am pleased to be a plebian…

Speaking of TV deals, the XFL 2.0 has reached 2 TV deals – each of 3-years in duration – with Disney and with FOX.  The league will begin play in February 2020 and these deals will put every XFL game on television – either on cable or on over-the-air network TV.  About half the games will be on network TV; that is important because that means fans will have a better chance of finding the games and then choosing to watch them or not.  [Aside:  The lineup above on cable CBS sports TV does not afford the WNBA such a luxury.]  And as the Bard of Avon might say here:

“Aye, there’s the rub…”

The XFL product on the field must be accepted by the viewing public as an interesting and acceptable way to spend a few hours a week because there will be a laser focus on the ratings that the games attract.  The audiences have to be “of a certain size” AND the audiences must continue to show interest in the product.  No one is going to dig deeply into the demographics of the WNBA game (Sky versus Lynx) next weekend to read any kinds of future tea leaves.  The ratings for that game will be down in “infomercial territory” and most everyone knows that from the start.  The XFL 2.0 will not enjoy such a lax overview.

The good news for the XFL 2.0 TV deal is that the league is not buying the TV time from the network as did the AAF.  Rather, the networks will absorb all the costs of producing the games for telecast and the networks will keep all the advertising money that comes in.  The networks’ coverage of production costs is a plus for the XFL 2.0; it means they will burn money at a lower rate.  The lack of any split in the advertising revenue that comes in is not a plus because the XFL 2.0 must have incoming revenue to survive and getting money back from the networks as part of the rights package is one of the big revenue streams.  The AAF business model did not work; we shall see about the XFL 2.0 business model…

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times recently:

“Colts owner Jim Irsay forked over $718,750 to buy John Lennon’s famed piano.

“Hey, Jim, when the player-personnel people said they wanted Peppers, they meant Julius, not Sgt.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Sports Venues today …

The Preakness Stakes run last Saturday had lost much of its allure when the on-track and disqualified winner of the Kentucky Derby skipped the Preakness AND the tote-board longshot winner of the Kentucky Derby also shunned the race to prepare for some as yet unidentified stakes race later this summer.  Nevertheless, there were two interesting things to emerge from this race that deserve attention – – and neither have to do with the winner of the race.

  1. Longshot, Bodexpress, unseated its rider, John Velasquez in the first few steps out of the gate in the 1 3/16-mile race.  What happened then is a tribute to the training that the horse has had.  He continued to run with the pack for the entirety of the race without causing any chaos or dangerous incidents.
  2. Fans at Pimlico faced new evidence of the track’s decrepit state of repair.  On Thursday before the race, a water main broke in front of the track; hasty repairs were made – – but obviously there was more to the problem.  During the day, the water pressure in the top floor of the grandstand was so low that officials had to close all the rest rooms on that level making the waits to use the other rest rooms “abnormally lengthy”.

I have argued for years that Pimlico should be closed because it is an inadequate facility as it stands and because estimates of what it might take to bring it up to acceptable standards all go north of $400M.  This “bathroom inconvenience incident” is not the only problem that Pimlico officials had to deal with this year.  In the Spring, it was necessary to close off the Old Grandstand area of the track.  The reason for the closure is probative for razing the facility and using the land for something else:

  • Engineers determined that if indeed the Old Grandstand would be filled to capacity as used to be normal on Preakness Day, the structure itself could not bear the weight of those 6500 patrons.

Let me change the subject here and talk about an athletic facility that is nowhere near needing to be shut down or be subject to renovations that might cost $400M.  In fact, this venerable facility is in sufficiently good repair that its uses are being expanded significantly.  I am talking about Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN.

This stadium opened in 1930 and until very recently, it served as the home field for Notre Dame football and nothing else.  Please note that there are no corporate naming rights sold for this facility; it is plainly and simply Notre Dame Stadium.  Tony Kornheiser has referred to Notre Dame’s football history by saying that Notre Dame is actually, “The University of Football in North America.”  That is only a slight exaggeration.  For several decades many people thought of this as a holy land of football – – which come to think of it is not such a stretch of the imagination given that “Touchdown Jesus” stands at one end of the field.

But time marches on and things must adapt – – or risk obsolescence.  In the case of Notre Dame Stadium, the adaptation has to do with increasing the facilities revenues.

  • Last year, Notre Dame Stadium was the site for a concert for the first time in its life.  Garth Brooks performed there; Google tells me that about 85,000 folks showed up for that event.  That is all I can possibly say about it because I don’t know Garth Brooks from Our Miss Brooks – – Google that one if you are under 65 years old.
  • On New Year’s Day this year, Notre Dame Stadium was the venue for the NHL’s annual outdoor hockey game on New Year’s Day.  The Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks participated in this event.  Presumably, the Blackhawks were the home team because South Bend is a whole lot closer to Chicago than it is to Boston.
  • Come July of this year, Liverpool FC of the English Premier League and Borussia-Dortmund BVB of the German Bundesliga will turn the football field at Notre dame stadium into a futbol pitch.

The reality of 2019 is that organizations are always on the lookout for ways to increase revenue streams and to monetize every possible asset within their organization.  What was a “College Football Mecca” is still a football stadium primarily – – but it is used in other ways so as to bring added monies into the university and the city of South Bend IN.  In addition to its reputation for football excellence, Notre Dame also enjoys an excellent reputation for its business school.  Finding ways to blend those two aspects of Notre Dame’s image probably sits well with alums and the administration – – but I wonder if somewhere in the cosmos folks like Knute Rockne and/or Frank Leahy are shedding a tear.

Let’s just hope that the “revenue maximizers” exercise a modicum of restraint here.  Hockey games and soccer games are athletic events; no problem hosting those sorts of things in Notre Dame Stadium.  Many, many stadiums around the country are used as concert venues for singers and bands and whatevers; no problem there either.  However, where is “the line” that should not be crossed:

  1. A monster truck rally?  Or a motocross event?
  2. Wrestlemania?
  3. A Formula 1 race through the streets of South Bend with laps around the field in the stadium?
  4. An “International Dog Show” put on by the Indiana Kennel Club.  [Think of the clean-up activities after that one…]

There is a line somewhere; the good folks in charge of Notre Dame need to find that line and then – to invoke a tried and true football phrase – – hold that line.

Finally, in the spirit of sporting events that may not belong in certain venues, consider this remark from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“The Olympic hopes of a top Russian skateboarder were dashed when Maxim Kruglov, known as ‘Mad Maxim,’ was slapped with a four-year doping ban. Whoever heard of such a thing? And by that, I mean, who knew skateboarding was an event at the 2020 Tokyo Games?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Off-Field Issues Today …

Earlier this week, I noted that the Rays would visit the Marlins for a 2-game series and that they are the two worst draws in MLB.  Then I wondered if the 2-game set would draw a total of 20,000 folks.  Boy was I ever optimistic…

  • Game 1 was in Miami and the box score for the game said the weather was 77 degrees and the roof was closed.  There were no weather-related events to hinder a crowd and the attendance for the game was 6,306.
  • Game 2 was in Miami and the box score for the game said the weather was 78 degrees and the roof was closed.  Once again, no weather impediments and the attendance for the second game was 5,947.  The total for the two games was 12,253 fans.  That is less than the average attendance for a single game for every MLB team except for the Marlins.

I wondered if on the night of Game 2 if there were minor league games with more than 5,947 fans in the stands.  It took me less than 5 minutes of Googling to come up with these numbers:

  • Norfolk at Toledo (AAA level) drew 10,100 fans
  • Bowie at Akron (AA level) drew 7,501 fans
  • Frederick at Wilmington (Advanced A level) drew 6,504 fans

It used to be the case – and so I assume it is still the case – that the visiting team in MLB gets a cut of the ticket revenue for their performance.  If that is the case, all the other 29 teams have to be unhappy when they have to go to Miami because they have to know in advance that this will be a meager payday.  I really believe that MLB needs to get out of Miami as soon as they can without legal entanglements; despite all the positive indicators for MLB in that area, it has not worked, and it is not working.

By the way, if and when that happens, the good folks in Tampa/St. Petersburg should take careful notice…

The WNBA has its first Commissioner; in the past, it has had a league President; and if you read the reporting, you will see that plenty of folks think this is a big step forward for the league.  You say tomato; I say to-mah-to.  Cathy Englebert – former CEO at Deloitte – is the Commish and her first order of business is to negotiate a new CBA with the players union.  Here are two opposing forces in that negotiation:

  • The WNBA is a losing proposition; it only stays afloat because the NBA pumps money into the league; team owners would all be “in the red” absent that largesse from the NBA
  • The WNBA players receive in salaries approximately 22% of the league revenue; that compares to about 50% of the revenue that goes to NBA players and NFL players under their CBAs.

In 2019, there is energy behind the movement for “equal pay for equal work” – as it should be.  In situations of public sector jobs and in situations where private entities are at least breaking even, there are no good arguments to deny women equal pay for equal work.  However, that goal is a bit murkier in terms of its righteousness when that business entity is a women’s league and the comparison to the comparable men’s league does not also include the profitability factor.  Ms. Englebert has an interesting challenge on her plate…

Oh, and there is another thing Madame Commish needs to do in her role as the custodian and protector of the league’s image:

  • She must make it clear to the players and the union that being a no-show for a scheduled game because the flight to the city got in late is unprofessional and unacceptable.  It happened once last year; that must be the last time it EVER happens if the WNBA hopes to be taken more seriously than the late but hardly lamented AAF.

I swear that aliens from the Xygork Nebula are observing humankind from nearby in the solar system and they have irradiated the water supply in NYC to see how humans react to this altered state of water.  It is the best explanation I can come up with for team behaviors there.

  • Two years ago, the NY Knicks fired Phil Jackson as their GM/team President about a week after Jackson organized and ran the Knicks’ draft and took Frank Ntilikina with the first pick.  That draft came only a couple of months after owner James Dolan extended Jackson’s contract – actually, l I believe he picked up an option in that contract – for several more years.  Two years later, the Knicks are no better off than they were when Dolan showed Jackson the door.
  • This week, the Jets fired their GM who – since the end of last season’s disappointing results – hired a new coach, signed free agents to the tune of about $150M, organized and ran the NFL Draft and traded for a much-needed interior lineman.  And they handed the job to the new coach that he hired who has never been in a GM role in his life.

Memo to NY Jets ownership:  The team name – JETS – is an anagram for JEST.  If your new coach is not the offensive guru you have made him out to be, he will be the franchise equivalent of an ADAM Bomb.  Take a deep breath and think before you make your next move…

Finally, Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

“Speculation that an NFL team would take a chance on Colin Kaepernick once he settled his collusion case against the league now appears to have been too optimistic.  The draft is over and so is most of free agency, and still he sits.  Never say never, but I don’t see him returning to the field.”

I agree here; however, I think now his absence from football is of his choosing.  I think he has moved on to other things in his life.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………





The Jets Lead The News…

In recent years, the Bengals, Browns, Cardinals, Jags, Lions, Raiders and Skins have dominated NFL news items involving ineptitude and outlandishness.  A team that has been on the periphery of that septet has now seemed to demand entry into that “fraternity”; welcome to the NY Jets.  Yesterday, they fired their GM and handed that job – on an interim basis to be sure – to their new head coach who arrives with a career record of 23-25 and whose experience as a GM is ZERO.  As if that is not bad enough, consider:

  • The GM they just fired is the guy who just hired this hugely successful coach
  • The GM they just fired is the guy who signed up all the team’s free agents for the 2019 season.
  • The GM they just fired is the guy who organized and ran the NFL Draft that just passed.

If the GM was found to be embezzling team funds, I can understand this decision at this time.  If there are allegations that he has been sexually abusing household pets, I can understand this decision at this time.  Absent anything of those natures, this decision is ever so indicative of a franchise in disarray.  Welcome to Disarray Island, NY Jets.

Earlier this week, there was a headline at CBSSports.com that read:

  • Ten Storylines to Watch at the PGA Championship 

As you might imagine, the examples here were nonsensically focused on Tiger Woods to the extent that the entire compilation read like an old David Letterman routine on “Ten Things…”  This is NOT the CBSSports.com list; it is my impression of what the author there wanted to write – – but the editor demanded a slightly broader coverage:

  • Will Tiger Woods Eat the Same Breakfasts at the PGA as He Did at the Masters?
  • Did Tiger Woods Sleep Well Last Week?
  • How Regular Has Tiger Woods Been – A Septic Tank Check-up.
  • Does Anyone Dare Challenge Tiger Woods for This Championship?
  • Notice That Tiger Woods Always Wears Matching Socks in Majors
  • Will Adverse Weather Affect Tiger Woods at All?
  • Is Tiger Woods’ Caddy the Smartest Caddy on The Course?
  • Can Tiger Woods Go “Back-to-Back” in Majors? [On the golf course; not with waitresses. Get your mind out of the gutter…]
  • Can Tiger Woods Fart His Way to Fame This Week – – and the most important story line form this weekend’s PGA Championship
  • Which is Closer to the Bethpage Clubhouse – a Perkins Pancake House or an IHOP?

Since I was speaking about a headline to an article at CBSSports.com just above, let me note here that all the way back in 2016, those same good folks reported that Caitlyn Jenner would pose nude for a Sports illustrated cover.  I wish it were not so because the image evoked is significantly worse than disgusting – – but here is the link:

For anyone seeking a sign that the apocalypse is upon humankind, take that event and put it high up on your list of things to watch for…

Speaking of silly storylines and/or headlines, here is one from The Onion.

  • Kyrie Irving Promises He Won’t Quit on Whatever Team He Signs with This Offseason

When you read the stories going around now that the NCAA is contemplating changing the 3-point line in men’s basketball from the current distance to the “international distance”, the best advice I can offer is the title of a former cable TV comedy show:

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm

If my calculations are correct, the displacement of the 3-point line will be a grand total of 20 inches.  A difference of 20 inches would be important if you were comparing:

  • A home run that just cleared the left field wall in a baseball game
  • A horse race involving a purse of $2M
  • A 4th and 20 play in the Super Bowl that gained 19 yards and 16 inches
  • Porn Star A versus Porn Star B.

With regard to men’s college basketball, this would be a cosmetic change and nothing more than that.

Finally, here is another golf comment from an author and golf champion of the past, Horace G. Hutchinson, since the PGA Championship will commence later today:

“If profanity had any influence on the flight of the ball, the game of golf would be played far better than it is.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………